Let's say, for example, you're soldering a band of silver. This is done frequently to create a bezel for setting a cabochon cut stone, like turquoise or opal. The ends of the band are filed so that they are flat and perpendicular to the sides of the metal strip. The piece of metal is bent into an oval shape... don't worry about the final shape now; it can be formed again after it is soldered. One end is bent past the other a little bit, then pulled back and butted up against the other end. This tension should hold the two ends together. The two ends should meet perfectly, and not be offset from each other at all. Some people would put binding wire around the bezel before soldering, but I've never found it to be necessary. In my experience, binding wire is overrated...
This band can be set up, on it's side, on a soldering block. You will want to do the soldering on the inside of the band so any excess solder or cleanup won't occur on the outside (visible side) of the finished piece. The joint to be soldered should be at the bottom of the oval, as flux and solder are affected by gravity, like everything else. I will often stick a bent paper clip in my soldering block, then hang the bezel from it. This allows the solder joint to be at the bottom of the oval, yet the area to be soldered is not in contact with anything else.
Now paint the lower part of the metal band with flux, both inside and out. It may be easier to flux first, then position the band for soldering. If using an alcohol based liquid flux, you may dip the entire band in flux, then burn off the alcohol.
This is where there's some deviation in technique. I will usually heat the piece at this point, just enough to drive the water (or alcohol) out of the flux. This will leave a white "crusty" coating on the piece. At this point, I don't heat it enough to melt the borax.
I will then place a solder snippet on a fireproof brick (using my pick, dipped in flux) and melt it. This just takes a second with a direct flame. While the solder is a molten little ball, I touch my cold pick to it, and the solder ball adheres to the pick. This way, the solder is convenient at the end of my pick, ready to be applied to the joint when soldering temperature is achieved.
I then return to the band of metal. I reapply the heat, working in a circular motion around the band. With a thin piece of metal like this, it's important not to focus the flame in one spot, as you could end up melting the metal. After a few moments (the time depends on the torch and how large the flame is), the flux will turn watery, an indication I've passed the 1100º mark, and am approaching soldering temperature. I now alter the use of the torch somewhat. I only go all the way around the band every other pass, concentrating more heat at the joint.
At about this time, I touch my pick, with the solder, to the joint. The solder ball will usually transfer to the piece, and often right onto the joint. If the band is at soldering temperature, the solder can flow immediately. Be sure to keep the torch on the piece during this step. Removing the flame will allow the piece to cool somewhat, causing you to have to reheat it.
Depending on where the solder ball was deposited, you can, if necessary, use your pick to move it to a more advantageous position. As mentioned earlier, you can also use the flame to control the way the solder flows. At this point, if the solder has not flowed, concentrate the heat on the underside, or outside of the band, but keep the torch moving. With proper heat control and positioning of the solder, you should be able to get the solder to flow right into the joint.
The moment after the solder flows, remove the torch and extinguish the flame. Use your poker, or some other non-ferrous (not steel) implement to pick up the band and drop it in the pickle solution. This will clean the flux off the piece, as well as remove oxides that have formed on it.
This technique works great if you are soldering something with a single piece of solder. If you are soldering something with several pieces of solder, this technique would not work as well, since you can only handle one piece of solder at a time with your pick.
An alternate technique to the one described elsewhere would be to pick up a cold piece of solder with the pick and place it on the joint. This can be done easily with a pick, dampened in flux. It may take a little patience to get the solder positioned exactly where you want it, but you can use dampness of the flux to help you. The only drawback of this technique is that the snippet can "jump around" a little bit as the flux heats and melts. You can use your pick to reposition the solder snippet, as needed, while the piece heats up.
I find that it's a bit more difficult to manage the solder snippets with this technique. If you are soldering something with several pieces of solder, this works a little better, since there isn't a time element... you can take as much time as you need to set it up.
Author: Dave Sebaste
ArtMetal Editor: enrique
Last Updated: Tue, Sep 17, 1996